Playing it safe with eggs

'Perfectly poached eggs' usually means still a little runny. But is it safer to go with well-cooked eggs?
'Perfectly poached eggs' usually means still a little runny. But is it safer to go with well-cooked eggs? Photo: Melanie Dove

News of salmonella outbreaks needn't mean hitting the panic button and forgoing your favourite poached egg dish at your local cafe.

Following a recent food poisoning outbreak traced to Victorian farm Green Eggs, the state's chief health officer Rosemary Lester advised cafes and restaurants making raw egg dishes, such as mayonnaise, to source their eggs elsewhere.

Home cooks wanting to use up supplies from Green Eggs were advised to cook the eggs "until they are hot all the way through".

Cooking eggs kills the bacteria that can cause infection in humans, Victoria's deputy chief health officer Dr Michael Ackland confirmed.

"In the case of eggs where there is a known risk, the only (safe) way to consume the egg is to cook it thoroughly," he said.

"This means not having any runny egg yolk," Dr Ackland said.

Cooking is advised whenever an infection risk is suspected, he said, and for people with a heightened susceptibility to infection such as the elderly, pregnant women or those with chronic diseases.

"It's good practice for older people and any other people with chronic health problems where their immune system is compromised to make sure that they are consuming eggs that are thoroughly cooked, or that they are eating products that contain pasteurised eggs."

Dr Ackland said while a risk of picking up infection increased with uncooked eggs – used for example in mayonnaise, aioli or desserts such as tiramisu or mousse – for most people the risk was "very low".

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"It's important to stress that eggs are a good, healthy food," he said.

Egg safety tips

  • Throw away any broken, cracked eggs.
  • Avoid unpackaged eggs if uncertain about their source or best-before date.
  • Larger eggs have thinner shells that are more likely to crack and let in bacteria.
  • Don't wash eggs, the shell becomes more porous making it easier for bacteria to get in.

Source: betterhealth.vic.gov.au